Saturday Interview: Weight of world on Bingham’s shoulders

Stuart Bingham celebrates with the trophy after winning the final of the Betfred World Championships.
Stuart Bingham celebrates with the trophy after winning the final of the Betfred World Championships.
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Stuart Bingham wakes up every morning with a vivid reminder of the day in Sheffield which changed his life.

The World Championship trophy he won, coming from a 50-1 outsider to beat Shaun Murphy at the Crucible, lays safely tucked away in its box by the side of his bed.

It is reward for 20 years – in 39-year-old Bingham’s own words a “career wilderness” – when he was one of snooker’s journeymen.

That journey ended when he emerged from 17 days of fierce competition in Sheffield to reach the pinnacle of his game.

“World Snooker sent me a replica of the one I won a few months later, but I have still got the one I got on the night,” he said.

“I keep it next to my bed, still in the box so it doesn’t get damaged.

“I see the box there (when I wake up), anytime I want to look at it, it’s right there. I still pinch myself that I am world champion.

“For the first couple of months, I had to remind myself I was world champion. Now, being on Tour, seeing all the other players, it’s sinking in.”

Bingham picked up the biggest pay day of his career, too, banking £300,000.

He quickly splashed out £6,500 to buy the Crucible table he triumphed on, although admits he can not give it a home yet as he needs to buy a bigger house to put it in.

Half the cash went on paying his tax bill, while he has also just bought a new Audi S6, which should make the drive from his Basildon home to York in 10 days’ time for the Betway UK Championship a little more comfortable.

“My manager took half of it so all my taxes were paid, so I couldn’t spend it,” Bingham told The Yorkshire Post, when asked if he had been extravagant with his winnings.

“But I have just purchased a new watch and a new car, the S6.

“The next thing on the list, is to move to a bigger house. I am still in the same house that I bought 12 years ago.

“Obviously, it ain’t the best place in the world, or the best area, but I am Basildon-born and bred and it’s in the heart of Basildon.

“I want to move into a four or five-bedroom house, hopefully find a room big enough to put the snooker table in. World Snooker have still got it (in storage).”

Numerous first-time winners in Sheffield have struggled in the subsequent 12 months, the weight of being world champion a heavy burden to bear.

Bingham admits he did not pick up a cue for a month after beating Murphy 18-15 in May.

He is now back in a regular practice routine, but has struggled, suffering first-round exits at the Australian Goldfields Open, International Championship and this week’s Champion of Champions.

In the latter, the Essex potter led 3-1, before losing 4-3 to 17-year-old Chinese rookie Zhou Yuelong.

“Of late I have been able to get back to practicing,” said Bingham. “But I just can’t buy a win at the moment.

“I didn’t pick up a cue for the first four weeks after winning the world title. I then only literally had about a week’s practice for the World Cup. It has been pretty hard.”

Having the target of world champion on his back is also tough for a player who only won his first ranking tournament, in Australia in 2011, 16 years after turning professional.

“I remember playing people like Shaun (Murphy), Ronnie (O’Sullivan) and John (Higgins), when they were world champion,” he said.

“You go out with a point to prove against them, obviously this has now happened to me.

“But I have been playing poor myself, giving too many chances away.

“I ain’t being playing bad (all the time), just not getting results. I was 3-1 up a few times and came out losing 4-3.

“I have been getting myself in winning positions, but just can’t seem to finish the job off at the moment.

“Being world champion has been absolutely fantastic. I would like to say the same about my snooker, but it ain’t true.

“Off the table, I am recognised a lot more, invited to shows like Question of Sport and the Clare Balding Show.

“I have also just been invited to the Sports Personality of the Year awards night. Things like that have been absolutely fantastic, to be recognised for what I have done, is great.”

Losing is not nice, more so with the expectation which comes with being a world champion, and Bingham admits he has struggled to enjoy his snooker compared to last season.

Struggling under self-imposed pressure is not something new for Bingham.

“Even going back to winning the World Amateur, I put pressure on myself, thinking that people were looking at me and saying ‘Yeah, he won the World Amateur, he must be really good’,” he admitted.

“I had a bad year after that, and the same sort of thing happened in Australia, when I won my first ranking event.

“Now winning the biggest trophy you can get, I thought I might have got used to it, with the experiences I have had.

“But I am finding it pretty tough at the moment.

“I had been in a career wilderness as a professional for 20 years, before winning in Sheffield.

“Even though the last four or five years have been good, winning tournaments here and there, winning the biggest tournament of them all, it’s been a big learning curve for myself.”

Bingham has few hobbies outside of snooker – “I used to play a bit of golf, now I just spend time with the family” – but he did enjoy a VIP day out at Wembley watching his local football club, Southend United, win the League Two play-off final in May.

He also recently got to spend a few hours with West Ham United duo Carl Jenkinson and Andy Carroll in a promotional snooker video ahead of the UK Championship.

“When I was at school, I was a Liverpool fan, so it was nice to meet Andy Carroll,” he said.

“I probably watch West Ham more than any other team.

“My local team is Southend United. I was lucky enough to get invited to Roots Hall for the second leg of the play-offs, then they invited me up to Wembley to watch the final.

“Southend came out on top. It was brilliant, got up to the Royal box, it was one of the best days of my life, to be fair.”

So how does Bingham feel about adding another chapter to the Bingham book of “best days of my life” at the Barbican, when he opens up against Northern Ireland amateur Jordan Brown on Thursday, November 26?

“It would be very nice to win that double (World and UK titles), but I try to win every tournament I enter,” he said.

“With recent form it will be tough, but it would be great to get my hands on that trophy.

“I picked it up the other day, with the West Ham boys, and it looked absolutely brilliant.”

The Betway UK Championship runs from November 24 to December 6. Tickets start at just £6. For more information call 0844 854 2757 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets.

The Stuart Bingham story...

Born: May 21, 1976, Basildon Essex.

1995: First turned professional, aged 19.

2000: Made his Crucible debut and scored one of the event’s biggest first-round shocks, beating defending world champion Stephen Hendry 10-7.

2011: Won his first ranking title after 16 years of trying, beating Mark Williams in Australian Goldfields Open.Victory put him into the top 16 of world rankings for first time.

2015: Was crowned world champion at the Crucible in Sheffield, beating Shaun Murphy, after starting as a 50-1 outsider.